You might have noticed the past week that Chattanooga has been rockin' with RiverRocks. But if you haven't yet joined in any of the mind-boggling array of 90-odd events in this outdoorsy, family-friendly festival, it's not too late. The 10-day fest, which celebrates the best of what the Chattanooga area offers in recreational sports, music, dining and feature events, will host some of the best events yet downtown this weekend.
This evening's activities, for example, will feature a lively concert at 7 o'clock by Michael Kaeshammer and his six-piece band in front of the Hunter Museum at Riverfront Parkway and Second Street. This Canadian boogie-woogie pianist and vocalist will stir your toe-tapping spirit and put you in the mood to enjoy the next event: a dazzling 3D "projection mapping" of the Hunter's mansion. This unique, shape-shifting light show - a novel technology not yet experienced in Chattanooga - will appear to transform the mansion itself, making it move, develop cracks, or even crumble into the river.
Of course, the mansion will still be there Saturday, overlooking daylong concerts and other events in Coolidge Park. Elsewhere, RiverRocks events will feature several area hikes, climbing events (including the international Triple Crown of Bouldering's second leg), a Stringer's Ridge trail race, a 10-mile endurance swim down Suck Creek, caving, cycling, paddling and rides in tethered hot-air balloons. All this, of course, will play out while the multistate Head of the Hooch rowing competition takes the stage on the Riverfront's south shore.
The Saturday evening events will feature a free concert (courtesy of New Belgium Brewery) by the venerable Jayhawks from 8 to 9:30 in Coolidge Park. The fitting end of this busy day will be another unique light show - a wood-sculpture burn in the park by Andrew Nigh.
On tap for Sunday are hikes on Signal Mountain and Stringer's Ridge, Tai Ji classes, climbing, a whimsical art bike brigade, the Sunday Market on the Southside, a greenhouse tour at Reflection Riding, and a traditional music gathering and competition from noon till 6 p.m. at the Tennessee Aquarium.
We recite the weekend's list, if you didn't know it, to provide a hint of the scope of RiverRocks, which indeed celebrates virtually every mainstay outdoor activity in the area, plus the cultural, culinary and civic amenities to be found here.
RiverRocks, the brainchild of Mike and Stormy McGauley and the product of financial sponsors and a dizzying number of enthusiastic volunteers, has also offered a medicine conference on several topics related to outdoor activities, a dining tour and a raft of fun family events.
Just in its second year, it's still growing. It added trail-horse riding on Lookout Mountain this year, and a wider range of classes and races for stand-up paddle board enthusiasts, in addition to the hiking, swimming, canoe, kayak, bicycle and trail-running activities. The latter two featured last week's Sequatchie Valley Century Race (a 100-miler plus two shorter races) and the Rock Creek Stump Jump (50-kilometer and 11-mile trail races).
These recreational activities, from moderate to intense, have seamlessly complemented the downtown events. Taken together, they have all served the goal of RiverRocks, which is to showcase the many amenities and quality of life that makes the Chattanooga region one of the nation's best places to live, work and recreate. To get a taste of RiverRocks, check the agenda for this weekend at http://www.riverrockschattanooga.com/ and join the fun.